Unexpected find of historical bondage pictures

Posted on Tue, 26 November 2013

Sometimes one stumbles across hidden gems in the most unlikely places. In this case, a student directed me to video showing a "takate kote" to ask my opionion. What I found was a Japanese fusion box tie that gave a mere nod to a t-k. However, upon looking up the URL, I came across a fascinating gallery showing illustrations of bondage from the early 1900's onwards!

The site is called Il Sottile Piacere and the gallery is here. It seems to have quite a few of the late Ouzuma's masterpieces, featuring the ubiquitous fuller- figured heavily tattooed models that characterise his work, in the Oriental Bondage section. The other galleries feature a mixture of rope, chain, device bondage and corporeal punishment. You will no doubt recognise some famous names inlcuding John Willie. The rest of the site is a bit of a mixed bag ranging from a nice tutorial on joining ropes to complete shambari.

If I am not very much mistaken, the Intro page features a photo of Taeko tied by Arisue. Some of the work is very pretty, albeit owing more to TKB than Japan. For example, the 'rose' that finishes the tie, third set down on the right here. The site rather typifies my impression of the Italian shibari scene, which is that there are very few people there tying authentic Japanese shibari (as opposed to the more common interpretation in the west). No names, no pack drill; however, I suspect those I have in mind, know who I mean ;-) As who who speaks his mind, I'll stick my neck out, and say that I feel the Italian scene has been held back by a lack of co-operation between scene groups/organisations and possibly a protectionist or 'head in the sand' attitude. I think everyone there would benefit from working together and embracing competition with the stimulus that brings. Change will come, people with either be on that train or miss it. I am delighted to see that some people there are realising this but many are still too busy tripping each other up to progress. Let's hope this changes for the better.

Amazingly, I have been pointed to another great site for old pictures of kinbaku and general SM. Nawa-Art not only has photos, it also includes illustrations and scans from publications, such as Kitan Club, pivotal in bringing shibari more into the public eye. I was struck by how basic much of the tying appeared and the similarities to western bondage, e.g. single thick ropes as opposed to thinner ones used doubled. It serves to remind us of how quickly the art has evolved from a somewhat ugly, yet charming, duckling into today's beautiful swan. This should make us realise that it is a living art that is never static. In not much more than 50 years, the transformation has been astounding. If we saw somebody rigging today as it is depicted in some of those pictures, we would probably be very unimpressed and probably even say "That's not shibari!". What will happen in the next 50 years? Will people be deriding our best efforts today as amateurish?